Froneman appoints former colleague to run uranium M&A

Stockpiles of uranium ore

SIBANYE-Stillwater’s plans to sell or joint venture its uranium reserves have been given a boost with the appointment of industry veteran Greg Cochran, a former colleague of group CEO Neal Froneman.

The two were behind Uranium One, a former uranium development company which in 2007 bought Kazakh company UrAsia for C$3.8bn – the largest uranium transaction in history. Unfortunately, Uranium One foundered amid a crash in the uranium price.

Said Froneman on Wednesday: “With solid fundamentals currently underpinning the uranium market, we will be assessing various options to realise value from our existing 32 million pounds of uranium resources on surface at the Cooke tailings dam, and 27 million pounds of uranium resource at Beatrix 4 (Beisa). We are confident that Greg will deliver on this potential”.

Froneman told Miningmx on March 5 that his company was considering offers for its uranium assets which could see it swap resources for a stake in a pure-play miner of the fuel. “We have had interest out of Canada, Australia – your key uranium jurisdictions,” he said. Sibanye-Stillwater was also weighing potential partnerships with mining companies on a “vanilla” joint venture basis.

“We have had lots of interest and we are very open-minded as to who we could work with. We have got to do it on the best commercial terms,” he said.

In addition to time at Uranium One, Cochran led Namibian-focused uranium developer Deep Yellow, and was most recently, CEO of Aurora Energy Metals which has an asset in the US. Cochran will be executive vice president, head of uranium, effective 1 June 2024, said Sibanye-Stillwater.

According to the World Nuclear Association, global uranium demand is forecast to reach 83,840 tons in 2030, from 65,650t now, while supply falls 50%. A doubling in the development pipeline is needed to avoid a major supply deficit, the association said.

Interest in Sibanye-Stillwater’s uranium is sure to come from Harmony Gold which said in Februaryit was interested in acquiring third party resources of the material after reporting revenue from uranium of R435m in the six months ended December compared to R81m in revenue for the prior period.

“There are quite a few dumps in South Africa that contain a bit of uranium and have been operators. So our project team will be looking at it,” Beyers Nel, chief operating officer of Harmony Gold told Miningmx in an interview.

Froneman said Sibanye-Stillwater would “not be dragging its feet” in finalising a deal for its transaction with an outcome likely in a quarter or two.